Episode 4: ON TRANSFORMATION features the voice of Swedish social entrepreneur, Tomas Björkman. Tomas is a former investment banker and progressive thought leader, who is exploring how to create new spaces and places for co-creation, personal and societal transformation, and community development through conscious social development.
Tomas is the co-author of the book The Nordic Secret. He is a founding member of the Swedish youth association Protus for lifelonglearning and philosophical exploration. In 2016, he founded the Research Institute Perspectiva in London together with Jonathan Rowson – to inspire our political, academic and business leaders to examine real world problems with a deeper appreciation of the influence of our inner worlds.
In 2017, in partnership with the Norrsken foundation, Björkman launched the digital platform 29k to help people reconnect with themselves, like-minded people and what they value most in life. He has been a member of the Club of Rome since 2014. He is also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences Kungliga Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien or IVA.
Episode 4: Tomas Björkman ON TRANSFORMATION
Recorded Summer 2019
Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today, inspired by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.
In this episode, On Transformation, we have one guest, Swedish social entrepreneur, and co-author of the The Nordic Secret, Tomas Björkman.
After leaving the world of finance, Tomas established a Foundation out on a beautiful island in the Stockholm Archipelago. The Foundation has the sole purpose of facilitating sustainable social transformation, by nurturing the connections between personal and community development.
Tomas is also the co-founder of the London based Research Institute Perspectiva, and he has been a member of the Club of Rome since 2014.
So, I’m Tomas Bjorkman. I used to be a business entrepreneur started many different companies in I.T. property and then in banking.
I was the chairman of this banking group, and I left business more or less completely in 2006, perhaps right in the middle of my life.
And I started to think about what to do with the with the second half of my life.
And I came to the conclusion that I wanted to start a foundation in as in Sweden; a foundation that was built around the island of Ekskäret, which means the Oak Tree Island, because I have always felt that it was in nature where I could come in good connection with the deeper layers within myself. And as I wanted to make the purpose of my foundation the interrelationship between in their personal development and societal change. It was never it was very natural for me to decide to base my foundation out in nature and use nature as a catalyst. So 2008 was mostly when I took the decision, and 2009 or 10 or there about, my foundation was up and running.
After that I’ve also started a small research institute in London called the Perspectiva and a few co-live and co-work initiatives both in Stockholm and also in Berlin.
I also managed to write three books.
The first one is called the Market Myth which really which really summarizes my inside view of the market; how the market in many ways is a very good and efficient tool that helps create a lot of efficiency and value, but in other instances it’s not at all a good instrument to rely on when it comes to creating a human well-being and societal well-being. So that was The Market Myth.
My second book’s called The World We Create with an emphasis on ‘we.’ There are many, many more aspects of the world than we usually think about that are actually human-created. I would say that perhaps 90 percent of the world we live in today is a human invention and could be radically different. One example of that is of course the market which we tend to look at as a natural phenomenon, but which is really a human construct, and even the free market if there ever would be such a thing, could essentially be completely different than it is today.
And then my latest book, which is written together with a Danish philosopher and friend Linda Anderson, is called the Nordic Secret and it’s really about how the emphasis on inner personal development played an essential role for the Nordic countries to transition, a hundred years ago, from being the poorest non-democratic agrarian countries in Europe into, just a few generations later, the happiest most wealthy stable, industrial democracies in in the world.
On Human Timelines
So the story I tell in my book The World We Create is really the story of a humanity from the very, very early stages, when we became humans more or less perhaps a couple of million years ago; the invention of fire, perhaps half a million years ago, to the start of culture perhaps 50,000 years ago, and the ongoing story about technological evolution.
And of course, humanity has taken many big steps and in the technological evolution, say the invention of agriculture, was something that completely changed the way we lived and related and we started to build huge cities and empires on the back of agriculture.
So technological development is nothing new, but today the speed of technological development is at such a rate that we’ve never seen anything like that before. And that creates a lot of problems, a lot of stress, but also of course it’s the technological development that we have to thank for all the for the beautiful lives that we can live today compared to our ancestors.
I sometimes say that even looking at my own grandparents, when they were teenagers, the world that they were living in that back then was such a poor and difficult world than the world that we are living in today. I don’t just mean the few percent of the human population in the rich countries, but really, I would say that perhaps even 90 percent of the world’s population today live in a world that my own grandparents when they were teenagers would just think was a fantastic dream world.
I think that the Enlightenment that was really the last time when we had a very substantial transition in both society and in worldview.
We have the Enlightenment and the scientific approach to the world to thank for this development, but also and at the same time I think that the many problems that we see today, many, many of the human made problems that humanity is facing today is actually now caused by exactly that same world view. This rationalistic scientific worldview.
You could you could say that all these different crises that we see today, of course we have the environmental crisis, which might even be the most urgent crisis we have today. But we also seem to be entering into a very severe political crisis. We certainly have health issues on a scale that we haven’t seen before. Not the least. The for example the obesity crisis in many parts of the world not just the rich West.
Now we have the opiate crisis in in the U.S.. We have everywhere in the West the psychological ill health crisis. And we have the inequality crisis that is both an increased inequality within countries but also between countries. And all of these crises, I think, are not different crises, they are actually symptoms on one underlying…which we could call.. a meta-crisis of our time.
Three unprecedented challenges
Humanity has many times before gone through these radical transformations both a world view and of society. But this transformation that we are now going through is different from the previous ones in three major aspects. And the first one is the speed of transformation. The second one is the global impact on the environment. And the third one is the possibility of going from a world of scarcity to a world a world of abundance of well-being not necessarily material abundance but abundance of well-being.
And if I take a minute to unpack each of them so starting with the rate of change. So before say when we went from an agricultural society to an industrial society, we usually had the possibility to make that transition or adapt to these changes between generations. So perhaps my grandfather was a farmer and his father was a farmer. But then when the industrial revolution happened his sons and daughters might have given up farming and moved to the city, whereas my grandfather and grandmother could remain farmers for the rest of their life.
Now as technological technology shifts that fast that we actually in our own lifetime have to reinvent ourselves many times. And if you just think back on your own life even if you are not that old you could think about how many completely different technological worlds have you actually already lived in.
I remember a world before television. Then of course we had the introduction of mobile phones so the world before mobile phones and after mobile phones are completely different worlds and then of the personal computing and then Internet and then the smartphones.
And each of these technological steps have really been that that significant that you have had to both the reinvent your business and business models but also your private life to a large extent.
So, say that we now live in a world where we might have to reinvent our lives and our careers every 10 years. Soon that will be every fifth year and then it might be every second year. And this is not very far away. And of course, that will put a lot of psychological stress on us.
And again, this is the first time in humanity where we are sort of forced to live in this very rapidly changing environment and are our brains are not evolved for this. But then so far in the history of humanity we have had the possibility most of us to live in the world that we were actually born into.
2. Environmental Impact
So that’s the first one. that’s the second important shift is of course that we are moving from a world where we humans did not have a significant impact on the global climate. We might have exploited and overused our local natural resources but then we had the perhaps the possibility to move on and nature could heal. Now the impact there. We as humans have on climate is on a global scale.
And again our brains are not really evolved to see this.
And that is one of the problems that we have today that we do not in an emotional way perceive the way we are destroying nature. because of course during the environment of evolutionary abductees version of our are human systems of of feelings we did not impact nature in that way so that we did not have any reason to to develop these feelings. And now when we when we need them, we are we are lacking them. And that is why for many people this environmental catastrophe that we are entering into does not really move them emotionally.
3. From Scarcity to Abundance
So that’s the second shift and then the third one is that we have like any animals throughout evolution been living in a world of competition and of scarcity. And our minds are really hardwired for scarcity, but also are our economic systems and our society is as wired for scarcity. So, for the market for example to function you need to have a a limited supply that meets the demand.
So also the market needs scarcity, whereas hopefully with the technological development,
if we could just distribute all the wealth that are current economic and technological the system produces, if we distribute that wealth in a just fashion then we already today have enough wealth for all of us to be living very decent lives, and again lives that my grandparents when they were teenagers could only dream of.
Of course we will not all be able to drive cars and consume material goods at the level that we do in the West today but still there is enough for everyone to be able to live a life in an abundance of well-being.
That is of course good news if we are entering into a world where we as humans do not need to work 40 hours a week 40 years of our lives.
That should be essentially be very good news for everyone. But if you look upon this possibility through the lens of the labour market what you then see is the threat of massive unemployment so again we can’t approach a world of potential abundance with a mindset and social systems that are geared and developed around the concept of scarcity so these three major challenges technological shift environmental threat and the possibility to go from a from a world of scarcity to abundance.
That is for me really the challenge and the tipping point and the hurdle that humanity needs to pass through right now. And for that to happen in a good way I think that we need to both change, have a change of mind and a change of heart. And when I speak about a change of mind, I’m thinking about the world view that we have today, the Enlightenment worldview, the reductionist worldview, the scientific worldview.
We shouldn’t give that worldview up completely because it is very helpful especially in some situations, but it definitely needs to be complemented with other ways of looking at ourselves and society and the world.
We also need to have this change of heart which is an which is an inner change, which is the change of opening up to these greater possibilities of us humans. And you could talk about the development of the heart development of compassion the development of consciousness.
You can describe this in many different ways and one way to describe them is really our need to develop what some might call it transformative skills.
And that’s really the skill sets that we need both as individuals to be able to survive and to flourish in this very new world but that also is essential for humanity when it comes to navigating this great societal transition that I think that we are just starting to see and see the beginning of.
On transformative skills
So, if we should look a little bit deeper into these different groups or clusters of transformative skills. And of course, these transformative skills they are they are many different. And it’s a bit arbitrary how you would cluster them and put them under various headlines but one way to do it is to talk about the cluster of openness the cluster of perspectives seeking the cluster of sense making the cluster around our inner world and developing and coming into contact with our inner compass.
And then finally a cluster around compassion that could include things like empathy, compassion, and self-compassion and other forms.
If you study these clusters of skills from a scientific perspective,
the good news is that science has shown quite consistently that all of these skills can be developed. So, for example you are not born with a certain amount of empathy or openness or ability to seek different perspectives.
That’s the good news. They can be developed. The bad news is that they can’t be taught in in in the standard way of sort of school teaching. So, for example if you in your organization, have someone that need to develop more empathy or compassion.
You could not just send him or her on a three-day course in compassion and then they come back with a new amount of compassion developed. No doesn’t work like that.
So these transformative skills really need a form of learning that involves deeper psychological processes.
Many or most of them subconscious processes and some researchers call that form of learning that is necessary transformative learning it is learning that somehow transforms the way you see the world and how you generate emotions.
It’s somehow a transformation of your mind and of your or of your heart.
And again going back to the work of my foundation, we have found and I have personally found that being out in nature and be in close contact with nature actually can function very well as a catalyst for transformative learning.
In this rapidly changing world where we do not know which will be my next step in career how will I have to reinvent my myself, then a safe bet is always that we will be needing more and more of these transformative skills.
So if I would give it an advice to anyone who is right in the middle of their career and worried about the future, and their employability in the future, I would say if you look at developing these sorts of transformative deeper skills they will always be needed.
And the same for your children.
We do not know what the what the labour market will look like in 10 years, or even less in in in in in 20 years.
Here in Sweden the politicians are today talking about that we should all learn programming, but the experts tell me that programming is one of the first tasks that will be automated by our artificial intelligence.
I would say that these transformative skills these deeper skills they will always be in demand. So I so I would put a strong emphasis on them.
And again the last time we have this huge shift in worldview that was when we went from a religious dogmatic way of looking at the world to start to look at the world through a rational scientific worldview. And that was a drastic change in worldview.
And I think we are right now in the need of an equally drastic change. This time I don’t think it’s about giving up. The scientific world view I think it’s about complimenting the scientific worldview and perhaps integrating the insights of both the scientific worldview but also perhaps the religious or spiritual worldview that is putting much, much more emphasis on our inner world and our capacity for meaning making, and complement that also with the latest insights from perhaps the post-modern worldview which contains very important insights about the hidden power structures in society and the way that our human society is socially constructed.
5 Shifts in Worldview
So, I think going forward and the new worldview will contain many lenses through which we need to see the world. To be even more specific, I could talk about five shifts in worldview and I think that we need to consider.
The first one would be to go away from looking at the looking at ourselves as just isolated individuals. These utility maximizing individuals that economic theory will have us believe that we are to start realizing that we are all as humans very. very much more interconnected and interdependent on each other.
And that just maximizing my own happiness or my own utility is really not possible. My happiness is dependent on the happiness of people around myself. And we are all interconnected.
So that could be one shift in worldview, a second one could be to realize that in many, many cases it’s much, much more fruitful to look upon phenomenon in this world not as things, but as ongoing processes and to start to realize that most of the phenomena in our world are actually self-organizing, developing systems, and applying a systems view on the world, an evolutionary systems view on the world, could be very fruitful.
The next shift would be a in in the view of our mind and going away from again the Enlightenment philosophers view of our mind as a rational decision making machine, to start realizing that our mind is actually also one of these constantly developing complex systems, that are under the development throughout our lives and that this development can either be facilitated or hindered by our environment. And then number four would be to go from a view of our society as more or less something given to start realizing that we are actually all co-creators of society and that society is something that is socially constructed by all of us.
And that whether we are aware of it or not we are either replicating or constructing society. And once we become aware of the fact that we are all co-creators of our social reality or our collective imaginary then of course that is very empowering but also giving us a huge responsibility in the ways that we create this social reality.
And then finally the fifth shift in worldview I think we’ll have to be around the view of our lives, and start realizing that ‘more’ is not necessarily better, and move away from a focus on development life and progress in mainly material terms of a material growth and material wealth to start realizing that inner matters like purpose and meaning becomes very, very important.
If you start to see the world from these new perspectives you start seeing a completely different world. And many of the political decisions and the structures and the struggles and the fights that we see today all of a sudden makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
The Nordic Secret
So this development of these transformative skills that I was talking about has actually happened before. We have a very interesting historical case in the development of some of the Nordic countries and how we as societies went from being in the middle of the 1800’s, the most poor agrarian, non-democratic societies in in Europe, in Sweden actually 30 percent of the working population emigrated to the U.S. because of the severe conditions in Sweden back then.
And then we developed in just a few generations even before the Second World War. When all the Nordic countries were at the top of the list when it came to their happiest richest most stable industrial democracies.
And the question one could ask is of course what made this possible. And the interesting story that Leon and I tell in the Nordic secret is that we actually back then in the Nordic countries in all of the Nordic countries had very visionary intellectuals and politicians.
And they and they could see that change coming of course because they saw the industrial revolution happening in the UK and on the continent.
And they knew that urbanization and industrialization was coming to the Scandinavian countries. and they knew that in such situations of societal change it’s so easy for us humans to start looking for something to hold on to in the in the external world you want to find something to which you can put your hope.
And that could be a dogmatic religion, or it could be a strong authoritarian leader. It could be an Erdogan or a Trump, but these visionary politicians were firmly committed to building democratic societies.
And they knew that the only way to build strong democracies is to build them bottom up. And in order to do that you need a substantial part of the population to actually be able to hold the complexity of rapid social change without needing an external authority. You needed a large part of the population to be enough grounded in themselves to be in contact with their own in their compass in order to become conscious co-creators of the new world that wanted to be born.
The way they went about to create enabled co-creators, emancipated co-creators, was quite extraordinary. Because what they did was that they created what we could call ‘retreat centres.’
Retreat centres for inner growth, to develop transformative skills and other capacities.
So, at the turn of the last century. The year 1900 about. There were actually 100 of these centres created in Denmark, 75 in Norway, and 150 in Sweden, and in most other cases these centres were located out in nature and we’re using nature as a transformative catalysts in these processes.
Here young adults in their early ‘20s, and back then you had probably been working a few years before you went to one of these retreats sense of all of these retreats. And you could spend up to six months, later on with a full state subsidy, at these retreat centres, with the express aim of finding your inner compass, and of becoming enough grounded in yourself to be able to act as conscious co-creators of modernity.
In addition to developing your own inner compass, you were also given basic tools to create the civil civic society organizations, how to start an NGO, how to write a speech, how to write an article, how to argue for your case, and also you learned the latest technological development in the industry or in craft in order for you to be able to embrace the technological developments and not be afraid of them.
And when this was at its height almost a hundred years ago from now say around the 1920s or something like that then 10 percent of each young generation in Sweden actually had the opportunity to go to one of these half year long retreats.
And this was everywhere in the population. This was very much working class and farming part of the population that took part of some of these retreats. So everywhere in society you had people who had enough inner guidance and stability to be able to act as co-creators of modernity and the democratic society.
And still today in Scandinavia, we see the effects of this massive scale resources devoted to in their personal development. This Nordic secret is actually a secret also to ourselves, because we lost the notion of the importance of the inner world at around the time of the second world war, when we became very positivistic, very scientific, and we are more or less started to look at the inner world our subjectivity more as a problem than as a possibility.
So today even In our history books these centres are not described as centres for consciousness development or development of transformative skills that they are more or less described as adult educational centres and they still exists today and they are called Folk schools and they still receive a massive state funding.
But their activities are more in the realm of updating your or your basic schooling or doing crafts or cultural activities so one could ask oneself so. So, where did this understanding from this these early politicians and intellectuals in Scandinavia come from?
How did they know the importance of our in their world and also the connection between the inner development and societal development?
And the answer there is that this understanding came from the German idealist philosophers that were writing at the beginning of the 1800’S. Philosophers like Goethe, Schiller, Von Humboldt, Hegel, and all of these philosophers. They were actually writing and reacting against the Enlightenment philosophers view of our mind as a rational decision-making machine.
For example, John Locke or indeed Reneé Descartes. Our mind is actually an organic system that is embodied in the totality of our bodies. So our mind is not just in our brain our mind is embodied in the totality of our bodies and our mind is all so embedded and very dependent on the cultural environment.
And these views of our mind are actually now more and more being confirmed by both contemporary developmental psychology but also contemporary mind research.
Our minds are actually embodied in the totality of our bodies and dependent on and embedded in our culture. They also knew that a very important step in this lifelong development of our mind is the step that we that some of us take as adults, not all of us, in shifting from becoming external directed to becoming inner directed.
Most people are still looking for an external authority. So far for democracy to really develop, you need to have a substantial part of the population, not necessarily a majority but a substantial part of the population to be enough grounded in themselves and be in contact with their own in a compass for democracy to work. And that is exactly what the politicians, the early Democratic politicians in Scandinavia and the intellectuals, took note of. And that is why they created these centres, these educational centres for transformative skills, for consciousness development and not the least developing their inner compass.
And it actually worked.
We have forgotten about this history and we are starting to lose this a little bit. Up until today we have forgotten about the importance of our inner world. And we are not any longer talking about consciousness development or lifelong development of our mind. We forgotten about these transformative skills and the importance to actually actively cultivate for example compassion.
But I see now in in Scandinavia a bit of an awakening and a bit of a real realization of this importance of the inner world and that is coming from perhaps an unexpected place; it’s coming from the corporate world actually, because as I speak with many people in the corporate world that are seriously concerned about the abilities of their organizations to keep up with this rapidly changing technological and social environment.
And this puts a lot of strains both on the corporations but also to all those individuals within the corporations, and quite a few H R departments are starting to realize that it is not just necessary to focus on the maturation and in the development of the top management.
But now a realization is starting to grow that in order for organizations to be adaptable enough and agile enough to constantly reinvent themselves in this rapidly changing technological and social environment, these skills are now skills that everyone in the organization needs to develop.
So then if this was so important in an in the corporate world and we started to realize this in the in the corporate world and in corporate literature and management consultant and in executive training why did we not at all talk about this in the same way and in society?Or societal development?
And I hope that these insights will spread rapidly out in society.
I think if not the least the environmental catastrophe that we are facing makes it absolutely necessary to again look at internal development and consciousness development on a societal scale, this becomes a major concern for not just corporations but for society.
And there I think, and there I hope that the Nordic countries again can play a leading role. So if I should say something about the uniqueness of of the Scandinavian model, I would use the analogy with with an organization and these new self-organizing organization. Some people talk about that in the new organization have to be a deliberately developmental organization. A deal where the organization actually supports the development of. All. Individuals within the organization to reach their full. Potential. And I think that the Scandinavian. Model. Originally. A. Hundred years ago the. Vision was. To create a deliberately developmental society. A DDR as. A society. Which. Actively supported. Every individual’s, every citizen’s possibility to reach their full potential.
And I think in the rapidly developing world we need to somehow come back to that it’s not just the the oh the ah tech companies that need to compete on an international market that needs to become Deliberately Developmental organizations. I think all nations now need to become deliberate deliberately developmental societies. And I think that that was really at the core of the Scandinavian model.
We can at least have a vision about what is a good process and how do we create that good process of moving forward.
And I think there is where we need to have the Democratic debate today and there is where we need to have a vision. And again I think part of that vision is already today creating a deliberative developmental society where as many people as possible in society can become and really feel liberated emancipated and empowered to be able to participate in the creation on the future world in the creation of the world that we together create.
You can find more information about Tomas Björkman and his foundation on his website
We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature
If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Leadership, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.
Embeddable player for websites and blogs: <iframe src=’https://share.transistor.fm/e/39486f1f’ width=’100%’ height=’180′ frameborder=’0′ scrolling=’no’ seamless=’true’ style=’width:100%; height:180px;’></iframe>
In this episode ON INNER RESILIENCE, we hear four voices share how they maintain inner equilibrium. Firstly, we learn about nature-centred mindfulness practice from Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India. Then you will hear Egyptian conservationist Noor A Noor, who describes his own personal path into mindfulness – through his experiences of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising. Then Judith Schleicher explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago. Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.
Hashtags to copy: tracesofnorth, Deep ecology, Arne Naess, arnenaess, deepecology, ajayrastogi, nooranoor, judithschleicher, christopheberhard, ecology, conservation, resilience, UNSDG, The Nordics, decolonisation, transformation, bioregionaldevelopment, peace dialogue, sustainability, climate crisis, biodiversity, global challenges, society and culture, monikakucia, danielwahl, helenanorberg-hodge, satishKumar, extinctionrebellion, climateuprising, sitikasim, ajayrastogi, tanyakimgrassley, Sweden, swedishstyle, tomasbjörkman, karmaura, judithschleicher, universitycambridge, davidattenboroughhouse, cambridgeconservationists, egypt, ajayrastogi, mindfulness, foundnature, christopheberhard, peacedialogues
Transcript episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE
Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today, inspired by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.
Naess used the term ‘self-realization’ to indicate a kind of imagined perfection, a process, and a goal for both for the individual and for community. This podcast: On Inner-Resilience combines Naess’ idea of Self realisation with a view of human equilibrium, but it should only be used if it includes a sense of inner joy and benevolence to the world. It can be defined by a number of characteristics:
Number 1. Inner Resilience is meaningful and desirable, but it can sometimes be painful. It is not synonymous with comfort. It is a process of spiritual maturity, where a person acts more consistently from themselves as a whole.
Number 2. Inner Resilience is a continuous process. It can be achieved through knowledge and learning, but it demands a consistent practice that includes the cultivating, communicating and sharing of compassionate values.
Number 3. Inner Resilience evolves new types of skills that are needed for transformation; including Empathy, Respect, Humility, Consensus-building, and Co-creation.
Number 4. We are constantly changing and cannot be separated from the planetary processes that we are part of. Our own health and wellbeing cannot exist at the expense of others, nor the biological or cultural diversity that is the nature of life.
Ajay Rastogi will begin by introducing the secular, nature-centred mindfulness practice, that he developed and teaches at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India.
Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, India.
Then you will hear the words of Noor A Noor, an Egyptian conservationist at the University of Cambridge who describes his own personal path into conservation and mindfulness – through his family, through music, and through the traumatic experiences of The 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
We will then hear Judith Schleicher. Judith explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago.
Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.
This podcast is designed for you to listen with headphones.
I hope you can make some time to simply enjoy listening.
Hi my name is Ajay Rastogi.
And we live in the village of Majkhali. It’s in the state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayan region.
And it’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi. And we overlook the high Himalayas. Many 6000 meters high peaks from maybe. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life.
The fact that we are unable to make big changes in the society which are needed for sustainability required that we also relook at the approach that we have taken so far in the environmental movements.
So, for that reason I was thinking what can be more transformative than a meditative practice, which can be done in nature.
Meditation is being considered as the methodology for inner transformation.
The contemplation of nature is done in a natural surrounding.
It’s a multi-sensory experience.
It helps because we are a biological organism and, therefore we have an inherent drive to connect with nature. It’s kind of we are genetically wired, so it is not that abstract as many people find many other meditative practices to be. So, it is a good beginning.
People can begin with it and then get to deeper levels of meditation whichever part they want to follow. But meditation in nature contemplation of nature is definitely an approach which can be done on a daily basis and it leads to that level of tranquillity and gives us the benefits of the meditation the compassion the kindness and the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.
At about 23rd minute a tranquillity factor causes deeper trigger or physiological relaxation. Which brings the body and the internal chemistry, in a much more regulatory and balanced way.
That’s called the relaxation response, and that’s what we are trying to achieve, also at the physiological level besides the psychic and other benefits, that the meditation will bring.
So, as we sit and observe with a soft gaze
One may not have access to such landscapes so it can be done indoors.
And it can be done with very simple objects of nature, then following the three steps of native contemplation that we have designed.
So the three steps simple three steps is observe nature with a soft gaze except with gentle detachment and send love with sympathetic attention.
Observe nature with a soft gaze, we accept the gentle detachment remaining. Not interested in finding details. Of course, the mind would wander here and there but as soon as we realized that we have gone further and drifted we can come back to observe nature with a soft gaze.
One additional element which is a very important element of Need contemplation practice is to let go and this happens by just as we sit down and begin our contemplation, we send love with sympathetic attention, we just remind ourselves of the gratitude the feeling of gratitude. And then we sit, observe softly with a gaze, and continue a gentle detachment.
The let go is not to make any judgment about where we are What are we doing. And this is a step which is a transcendental in nature and therefore it is very therefore itself a fundamental aspect of the practice that we are able to somehow transcend this call of judgment and thinking mind at least for a little while.
Noor A Noor:
My name is Noor Noor. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old Egyptian doing a masters in Conservation Leadership. Before coming to Cambridge, I spent the last 7 years managing Nature Conservation Egypt which is an NGO, working on the conservation of habitat species and local communities.
Growing up I I was a child of the city. My parents Were very active for social justice and for political rights and economic rights. However, they didn’t bring me into nature… it wasn’t part of my upbringing.
In 2011, Egypt saw one of its most incredible yet traumatic uprisings where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians went to the street to call for bread, freedom, and social justice. And obviously everything that stems from those three components.
As a result significant changes came about some of them were for the better but lots of them were for the worse. We were met with huge violence. Met with huge violence from the people that were in charge at the time specifically the armed forces or the army.
There was constant conflict between protesters that are calling for a complete transition to a more democratic,
Human rights-oriented government. And as a result…There was heavy persecution and Egyptians still remain heavily persecuted by the state.
Throughout 2011, myself as well as hundreds of thousands of other Egyptians who were taking part in these demonstrations, had to run for their lives. More than enough times.
To realize that that that life isn’t really as it seems once you’ve actually had to run for your life.
I had went from always being prepared to sacrifice myself for the cause to realizing that I am actually more useful let’s say, if I try to survive, and part of that realisation came the by spending time and nature for the first time.
I was spending a significant amount of time in nature and learning about nature and teaching nature as well as conserving nature as a part of my new jobs that I had assumed in 2012 and by spending more time in nature.
By understanding nature more I ended up understanding myself more. Bit by bit I ended up encountering mindfulness.
Which at the beginning I hated as a term because I felt it was very counter intuitive. The more I read up into mindfulness the more it really resonated. On a theoretical level, on a political level, and on a personal level. By spending time in nature by understanding how it works, by letting oneself be inspired and be healed by nature; That in itself is a mindful process.
Essentially one had encountered so much physical and emotional trauma in that one year whether inflicted upon myself or even worse seeing it inflicted on those that I cared about or even those that I did not know. But we share the common political ground. Accumulated traumas from that still are carried by myself as well as thousands of others to this day.
There’s no romanticisation of revolution there’s no romanticisation of Conflict and uprising. But I am absolutely grateful… because of how I ended up having to respond to these traumas.….. even politically How to better see how we can…be better as a holistically as a planet…. Get through the inevitable crises that we are facing and will continue to face at an exponential rate in the future.After the 2011 uprisings I was adamant on working in the field and I ended up getting a job managing an NGO working in nature conservation as well as working with a company that does educational environmental tourism and it’s a company called Dima. It made me aware of certain dimensions relating to our survival to relating to sustainability relating to the battles that we are trying to fight for justice.
I realized the importance of of Nature, and of the natural resources that we depend on.
What many people are realizing now is that all political and economic and even social dynamics relating to us as a species to us humans as a species are directly or indirectly related to our relationship with surrounding nature. The fact that we continue to separate ourselves from the things that keep us alive. Starting from our food all the way to even the air that we breathe in the oxygen that comes from that comes from other living beings and other habitats on this planet.
Our separating ourselves from the nature we depend on, is at the heart of some of the existing conflict over resources, as well as the trajectory that we’re taking towards the collapse of the systems that support us.
Political ecologies is excellent as a term in encompassing this. It says that…Whenever we look at nature and its resources, we need to think about the political, social and economic structures that govern nature. If we’re going to talk about its conservation.
And at the same time, if we’re looking at development; We need to think about the ecological processes that support. These social processes. ————————————————————-
To be honest, we’re all implicated.
The phone that I’m using now to speak with you. About sustainability the components that were used to make this phone are not sustainable. The coffee that I am sipping on at the moment is is it supposed to be ethically sourced but in the end, it’s probably come from somewhere very far away. That in itself, we’ve become so dependent on these things.
Back when I was 15, my father was imprisoned by the Mubarak regime. Or The regime that was in power in Egypt for 30 years. My father was sentenced to four five years in prison. At that time, I remember specific telling myself things like alright. You have a minute to feel whatever you want to feel
And then as soon as that minute’s done. Switch it off. Switch it off, go back continue about your day don’t revel in your head, just move along and I remember being 15 and telling myself these things. And while obviously that might not always be the best solution. I remember forcing myself to just to be able to disconnect from the anxieties and the fears in my head.
To be able to just continue to function. Ten years later when I found myself…. Acknowledging my anxiety for the first time, I realized that I’ve been breathing wrong my entire life. We’re not taught how to breathe when we’re kids no one tells you to breathe through your stomach when you’re a child.
In my last year of university I was I was studying political science and law and then my last year I got involved in a music project that made music out of garbage.
So recycling and upcycling waste to make music and to raise environmental and social and political awareness using it using music as as a means. That music project introduced me to the people that I ended up working with for the years to come.
I’m Judith Schleicher. I am a postdoc in the Geography department here in the University of Cambridge and I also work together currently as a consultant with U.N. Environment world conservation monitoring centre. I’ve always been interested in tropical forests the diversity the people who live there the cultural diversity biodiversity everything and trying to protect that and also understanding people and the relationship with them better. When I was doing my PhD I started meditating a lot and then when there was opportunity to work on the relationship between nature and people after my page that just seemed to bring all these things together.
Judith Schleicher at David Attenborough House, Cambridge.
From this location what we can see is concrete and a parking lot. And you know if that’s the environment people grow up and we even get less connected with age I think that not only has a very negative impact on our passive development in our personal growth and our society but it also means that in the future we might care even less about what we have left. I think what is particularly important is that we also look inwards we need to think about ourselves our own well-being and work on making the changes from within. And then we can make changes beyond that. And so I think those are the kind of things that really need to be part of our education system how we grow up. What are the things that really matter in our lives.
Children spend so much time in schools being taught so many things that are just involving our intellect in terms of thinking about it but they don’t really think about how do we build emotional resilience how do we think about our wellbeing how do we think about it own mindset. Really taking care of that is so important. And if we could make that a fundamental part of a person’s life when they grow up from where they grew up I think that would be a huge positive change.
I would love to see for example mindfulness a meditation being part of the normal school curriculum and then people start thinking about what is it that matters in my life. And what are the things that are important.
We really internalize all of those things and then we can also have the discussion at a much broader scale. As a community scale to society scale as a national scale of which the direction we want to go into. But it really has to start at a personal level. So. Many people are not familiar with it and they don’t really know what it means. They might as you said for example Buddhism whether they have religious connotations when it doesn’t have to.
It can be secular. Nothing to do with religion. Spiritual doesn’t mean that you have to but even one specific religion. It can be really challenging to work in conservation because you’re always fighting an uphill battle. Basically you’re always confronted with bad news and also the way often we talk about it is in a very negative way.
I was improving my fieldwork and lots of things were going wrong. And then my friend said who’s been meditating for a very long time. She’d started when she was a teenager and she said oh there’s this meditation course. Ten-day silent course coming up, and in Lima where are, It’s like why didn’t you just do it? I was like sure I’d never thought about what meditation is or anything.
So I was like Sure. And then one night I said I was like Why would I do that.
I just did this 10-day course without knowing anything about it. I didn’t know what meditation was. I had no idea what I would get myself into. I was amazing experience life changing. I mean in a 10 day course you go through so many things and ups and downs but every minute you put into it it’s worth it. I had so many positives but the strongest one was definitely this sense of inner peace that I’ve never felt that way before.
Not only just knowing but really feeling that happiness or contentment has nothing to do with anything external.
And of course, that’s things that we might intellectually know but really feeling it is a very different things and experiencing it. You know of course there is always daily struggles of internalizing it. And that will continue that knowing that is a very big gift to experience. I’ve done a few of these courses and every time at the end it’s just so nice when you haven’t talked for while.
For 10 days as your mind is just so focussed and so clear and you realize how we are impacted by all this chatter and so much information being fed into our brain all the time you really realize what the impact is. As soon as you start talking your mind just goes crazy.
One very important first step is awareness. So you know when you’re saying that you feel you become more sensitive but maybe you’ve just become aware of something that was always there as just that before you weren’t aware of it. So that means you couldn’t look after your body in the way that it needed attention maybe otherwise. You know. The same processes might have gone on is just that you wouldn’t have been aware of the impact it had on you. I mean I can totally connect with what you said about nature providing that space where you can develop all these things. Many of the things that I experienced through meditation of I guess they just came naturally in nature before. If I sit in a forest which is the environment I love, I feel never alone. I can feel alone be surrounded by lots of people are being in a non-natural environment. But I will not feel alone if I’m just in a forest and just being. Whereas in our society we always tool we have to be productive. We have to be doing we have to be doing things. It’s much more healthy to move away from that at least some time and just be be it with nature or be it with other people. And that is what ultimately creates contentment and happiness from within. And Nature provides the natural space for doing that.
Your mind is just in the moment.
The meditation course where I was helping over the years, so I was in the kitchen we were cooking 430 140 people. Which is it can be very demanding because you know cooking for so many people and very strict, strict time slots is probably what many people would call a stressful environment with people I’ve never worked together with but they were all meditators and they’re all aware or at least much more conscious about these things. And it was not only a work very well it was also good fun and we were great teamwork. So, if I could translate that into my day to day world everyone would be amazing.
I started meditation 7 years ago. I meditate daily at least one hour a day sometimes more. I mean it makes a huge difference to my day to day life. And it’s also made a huge difference of how I probably think about conservation.
Before I started meditating all that gloom and doom rhetoric sometimes can be really disempowering and make you feel just really difficult to think that you can really make a positive change in what if you don’t.
So that is very difficult sometimes to grasp. With meditation I also had a sense that you know we’ll be fine eventually, and nature will be able to cope whether humans were kept to cope. That’s a different question. I guess yes it made me more peaceful from within that I can do whatever I can in my possibilities to fight for a more just and more environmentally sustainable world. But I can be fine with whatever happens.
I’m Christopher Eberhard… I’m Austrian. Now, I’m based in the South of France, Archachon.
To put it in a nutshell like my whole life has been devoted to, um, I would say a quest for peace, or harmony; a living harmony.
So, it manifested on the one hand, let’s say more social sciences. I had a career as a legal anthropologist, between Law and Social Sciences, trying to see how we could live together in a more dialogical way, understanding each other and harmonizing each other a bit better.
And then the second aspect was like dialogue with inner dialogue and with nature and that especially expressed itself in my interest with the traditional arts especially the Chinese Internal arts and Indian arts like yoga.
For me like this inner resilience would be in this question of dialogue.
Dialogue is listening but it’s not only listening with your ears it’s listening with your heart. And even more than that is listening with your soul.
We can experience that in our very, very day to day experience it’s just like taking some time not starting to speak immediately taking five minutes or 10 minutes just to harmonize, before doing something.
Just letting the mind settle, being rooted in a certain way.
Sometimes people don’t want to do it, they say they don’t have time to do it, but actually just this sitting quietly, calmly, in a certain way completely changes the whole atmosphere.
And if you do it, you would find that people are much, much, more open to real dialogues, to listening to each other, to really sharing their experiences, than if you do it without that quiet time at the beginning.
So, you start to dialogue with another human being. Really dialogue, in the sense that you really wanted to listen to that person, and you, you let yourself be challenged, by maybe the world view that he presents or the sensitivity that he’s expressing.
While it may on the one hand be enriching, but sometimes it may be very shocking. You know. We, we may not really want to hear certain things, or we do not really hear certain things until we have heard them back a hundred times and then suddenly you’re like “Oh wow. There was something deeper than I thought.”
So when this happens it’s, it’s a kind of a challenge, also, some that leads to a second kind of dialogue which is the dialogue with which I call with ‘oneself;’ you start to become aware of what our, let’s call it invisible horizon of action and living things.
And for that actually we need the dialogue with others, because otherwise we can never become aware of our own personal window. And then when you start to deepen this dialogue with others and yourself by listening more to yourself. You also start to realize that actually you are connected to the nature all around you.
That in a certain way, once the sensitivity to listening has been opened up, well, you start to listen to the trees to the sun then the flowers to the to the clouds, in a certain way they talk to you.
If you want to listen, first you have to empty yourself, and then everything come and talks to you. The dialogical aspect of nature which starts to unfold. So, it’s a dialogue with oneself, with the others with the nature. And then there’s this other dimension which I call like beyond, whatever you want to call it, you know, these things which are beyond words and you cannot really express it, but which is also there.
Sometimes, when we talk about inner, we kind of separated or distinguish it from outer. For me, I would rather say that the experience of also entering in yourself, or entering in dialogue with nature or with the beyond, is more a process of creating links, where there was more links you may have had an idea of a feeling of separation, you know, you’re feeling separate from the others, and you’re feeling separate from nature.
Nature is more objects which are outside; the second world of objects. It’s not living reality.
Even some people… who just see them like objects and some robots which there, which behave in a certain way, but they’re not really persons that we interact with.
And the same thing with ourselves, and we may even ourselves not really…. We do our work. We do our things when our routines. But are we really considering ourselves as another living subject, as such.
There’s four dimensions —and you can start from any of these dimensions.
If you’re somebody who has been growing up in a very natural surrounding, maybe your first dialogue starts with nature. Some people they’re shepherds and they spend lots of time alone for months in the mountains. So probably for them the first kind of dialogue which would start is more like a dialogue with nature, and then the dialogues may come.
For people like me and more like a city person. And so, it’s more confronted with people at the beginning, you know. But the important point is to say that for me all these dimensions are always there. At the moment when we start to open one of these dimensions, dialogue of one of these dimensions, little by little we start to realize how everything is much, much, much more linked together than we ever expected.
It’s not just it’s always easy to go someone see what they don’t have is they don’t have that they don’t have that they don’t have that, and just construct them like the inferior version of yourself, but they can do the same thing, because from their point of view, you don’t have this and don’t have that and don’t have that and so on.
Wouldn’t it be more interesting, instead of trying to fill the other with your own projections, and your own ideas, to just listen, open up and then maybe discover all the plenitude the ‘other’ is. I just started to realize that our lives generally speaking sometimes very often a void to be filled.
You know, we, feel that we have to have a certain social status and we feel that we have to on a psychological level we want to achieve certain things and economical level, which is wonderful, as long as it is not something we just do because we need to fill our lives, and at the moment that we dare to maybe step back a little we may just find out that life is actually very rich and well these things may be happening without us trying to push too hard.
Plenitude means you start to realize all the relationships that you, you are knotting together, through your being.
Just like you have a physical body, considering like a modern western science, we are actually really children of the stars. I mean that is …all the elements that we made of are made in the stars, so we have actually a relationship with them.
So, we have this physiological level, but then we have our emotions, we have our feelings, we have our thoughts; in all these different dimensions are all interlinked. By the contemplation of outside nature, which we perceive as being outside, we actually establish a relationship, one which on the outside level may lead us to this feeling that we that we should not care for the environment because it’s our duty, but because of its beauty. And so, we establish that relationship with the outside nature.
But at the same time, contemplating the outside nature also actually refers us back to our inside nature. You can use the term ecological, but I would just say our, inner nature. What life is about. (laugh)
You are part of nature.
When I say nature, you know there’s nature, and nature there’s the visible nature that we see. And then there’s nature in the sense of let’s call what is the whole planet. And the solar system and the galaxies, and now they are talking about multiverses — all this is part of this other broader concept.
It really links, creating links where we didn’t see links, links where there was separation, little by little to see that things are so much linked, which is very important in the ecological thinking, you start to enter into this more holistic approaches to things because you realize you cannot just cut things into pieces, they’re always related and whenever you change something, someone always has an effect on the whole.
If you start practicing any Qi Gong, if you start practicing any movement, which you will do with the relaxed body, tasting what you’re doing, maybe doing it slowly, and doing it with awareness. Little by little what you will start to feel is what the Chinese often call Qi which is energy.
Again which is experiential, the one feeling that you may have at the beginning, is you will feel some tingling in the fingers or you may feel some warmth that will come, and then if you continue at some point you may feel it more inside, kind of a magnetic feeling. Sometimes you get somewhat like electric feel to it, just the quiet sitting and watching your breath…. Actually, even if you just do this but like you do it every day, and you do it for a couple of hours every day, and so on and so on– at the beginning you are very much in the psychological state. You’re just thinking of this and thinking of that.
And then at the moment, when these things start to settle a little –you like a glass, water and mixed and then it settles and becomes more clear and more transparent. When that stage starts to happen, things start to circulate in your body, that’s like basically what is the whole Qi.
These things are very real.
Christoph at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, India.
So that brings me to the reaction to the experience. The culture we live in, now I’m talking well, city culture, you know like a technological society. It blunts us to a lot of our experiences.
If you live in nature, and you have to live to survive in with nature. Your senses are much much more refined than the kind of senses that we may have like you know living in the cities. So in a certain way we again we colonised our minds and even now I still realise how much my mind is colonised
Very, very, big learning process also…..because you start to realize I do have an innate intelligence, my body does understand certain things, OK. You have to put the awareness. It’s not that you don’t have to do anything. You have to put the awareness. You have to try to listen. You have to practice. It’s not just coming like if you don’t do anything. And once you know little by little to learn, to make the difference between what is your illusions, and your and what things are real, in those what you feel.
We are not gods, we are not the masters of nature, or the kings of nature, no we are just a part of it, a very humble tiny part it.
Humility, the importance of humility.
You recognize yourself as a wonder of the universe. It’s amazing. And the more humble you become, in a certain way, the more beautiful the whole thing becomes.
Thank you for listening!
Nordic by Nature Podcast is an ImaginaryLife.net production created with the support of the Nordic Ministries Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature
If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Thinking, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.
<iframe src=’https://share.transistor.fm/e/39486f1f’ width=’100%’ height=’180′ frameborder=’0′ scrolling=’no’ seamless=’true’ style=’width:100%; height:180px;’></iframe>
Direct link to Transistor: https://share.transistor.fm/s/39486f1f
In the second episode On Survival, we have 3 strong voices who understand the need for radical, system change. First you hear the words of Monica Kucia, culinary curator in Warsaw, who talks about how to take the ego out of food. Then you will hear Design Leader Daniel Wahl, author of Regnerative Cultures who speaks about bioregional development. Finally, we hear Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, and founder of the NGO Local Futures.
Transcript to the Podcast
Tanya’s Voice: Welcome to Nordic By Nature: ON SURVIVAL.
It’s been a hot summer with amazing electrical storms and unpredictable weather. I’ve been at home reading about the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess.
He defined the term Deep Ecology and offered a serious vision for systemic change.
Number 1. Humanity cannot survive without Nature. We need to design all our systems and concepts around that notion. Our current economic model of perpetual growth, for example, is not viable, nor useful for the dignity of mankind.
Number 2. Diversity is life. We need to cultivate biological and cultural equity locally, as well as reducing carbon emissions globally. Our co-existence with nature is dependent on the equity of our global community and the legal and moral right of every living being to exist as part of an ever-changing eco-system.
Number 3. Organizations must review their societal purpose and enable sustainable livelihoods. Our governments and organisations need to declare a global climate emergency and mobilise together.
You will hear three people working towards this change.
First, culinary curator Monika Kucia, explains how she takes the ego out of serving food. Monika runs a farmer’s & producers’ market in Warsaw and hosts cultural food events that connect all types of people.
Then you will hear from design leader and educator Daniel Wahl. Daniel’s book Designing Regenerative Cultures is must for anyone interested in transformative innovation.
Lastly, you will hear Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, a seminal work that compares the way of life in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, before and after globalisation.
I hope you have time to sit back and relax and listen to this podcast with your headphones.
My name is Monica Kucia, and I’m a food writer and food curator so I design culinary events that are also artistic and have some social aspect.
Everything I do seems to be around food, but I find more and more when I get older that it’s everything is actually connected and if food is the medium that I use in my work it’s never only about food.
It’s always about connections relationships is about art is about history.
It’s about family and this what really makes my heart beat faster if I see that I can I’m able to join all these aspects around a table, and around the taste around experience of eating or cooking.
I think I was sort of born with this intuition like you know you. So, I started to being interested in food very early. Like when I was a teenager. And then when I started writing about it like 20 years ago, it was just fascinating that it’s so different in every region, and also it’s very different in every personal story. Probably you have a completely different story than I have.
We actually can say that there is the food voice. There is something that you express about yourself through the food. So this is what I started exploring probably 13 years ago when I published the first book. It’s like the sun and everything else is like sort of moving around it.
It’s sensual because it involves all our senses, and also it connects people because it’s about feeding and feeding is giving the energy. So it’s about the flow, how it goes between the people.
Everywhere I go, I meet food people, I always connect with them instantly. They have similar sensitivity or a similar approach to many things. They are more open maybe. So it’s a big tool for making friends, for talking about anthropology, for also having fun and enjoying yourself.
It is everything in one, you know! (laugh)
As humanity, as people we went wrong somewhere. Probably in the 20th century or even maybe before that when there was the industrial revolution. I would blame the mass production basically and the greed and indulgence.
It’s more now about pleasing oneself than about feeding myself. You know it’s not always that if I want to please myself it’s actually good for me or good for other people or good for the planet.
So because we have means and we have the global system we can have any food we want.
And in the end it’s not a good thing. It destroys nature.
But what I’m saying is that we went wrong and maybe there is no way back. But what we can do now is make our personal choices that are wise and we should use our knowledge and awareness to stop the process of destroying our home which is the earth.
So, we started doing the farmer’s market in Warsaw in April.
We prepared it for a long time. And the idea is to bring the real food with the real people that are making it to the people who live in the inner city.
We have some markets with organic food in Warsaw, we have markets with producers’ other markets.
In this area, where we started it, in Praga, Centrum Praskie Koneser, there is nothing like that. So we thought that it’s good to give it a shot.
And for me what’s really important is that there is a relationship possible, that you can talk to the person who produces the food. So, it changes our attitude, and the way we are used to do shopping, nowadays, that you just come to the shelf and pick whatever you want, because you are the king, the king of the supermarket.
And here is a person who’s touched all these sausages or fish or veg or cheese or anything else that we have there with their own hands.
This is personal. Shopping becomes personal. In this situation that you just come you get to know these people. It’s more for me. It’s very important to respect these people so just to show them respect because they work very hard and they give us very good quality healthy food.
For me it’s a work of turning around the idea of shopping. It’s more about me coming to these people to get my food to feed my family rather than being the picky gourmet customer who just looks for the best product.
I think we should really support each other, and we should really change the proportions in my opinion. This is how it should be. So, the village feeds us so we should appreciate them, and we should respect them.
We don’t value food anymore because it was so cheap. It can be so cheap, and it’s so easily obtainable. We are facing the fact that it might change during our lives like that the food will not be that easily obtainable
I had a grandmother in a little village, and she worked really hard because it was like a small farm and everything was from this small farm. Everything we had what it means that there was no trash. There was no garbage. Nobody would ever take any trash because there wasn’t any.
There was a shop in this village, and it was open twice a week for I think four hours. There was no plastic, so I remember buying like notebooks for writing. There was not much in this shop so they would produce everything for themselves exchange with the neighbours. And it was very hard life. It was not fun.
Waking up at 5:00 in the morning. It’s not something that we would regard as this nostalgic sentimental vision of the village.
So, what I’m saying is that I understand that we have become so comfortable like in the cities like this probably two percent of older people in the planet that we have the access to the goods from all over the world.
And we don’t have to really work with our hands obviously nowadays they have machines they have resources from the European Union they get money is very different.
The Simple Life is hard at the simple basic one small farm with two cows and one pig farm.
It’s just hard life.
Therefore, we should appreciate and respect the people who still take the effort and they actually do it with their own hands, rather than eat the artificial food becomes less and less actual food. It becomes a product.
It becomes processed item that has no connection with where it comes from. Usually we don’t know what it comes from. We don’t ask this question when we buy. I don’t know readymade pizza. You don’t really ask the questions Where do the ingredients come from.
Climate change. This is something that I think most people don’t really take seriously.
This is us being lazy. It will finally probably kill us if we keep doing it.
Cooking some potatoes and some carrot. And it doesn’t take that long.
This is more about our approach. People make choices and sometimes it’s more important to do something else.
But still I observe here in Poland that we have had so much ready-made food, in the last five years that I have never seen before.
Still with this huge interest in cooking in food in the culinary program’s culinary books, all these like celebrities there is more and more ready-made food cooking becomes a luxury. In a way with our farmers market is a struggle. I would say.
We need to convince people that it’s better to come there to get to know these people and come every week. To have your ex straight from the farm, to have your meat if you eat meat, and to have other things straight from the people. But this is the effort. And this is in your mind.
This is how you see yourself how you would see the community how much you connect.
I never would say that food is the most important thing, because people can be extremely healthy and destroy their relationships destroy the planet destroy themselves in different aspects, like emotionally or spiritually.
So, what I’m saying is that food is just one of the factors.
I don’t believe that anything can be taken apart like separate from other things. Food is something that everybody needs every day. True, but if you live in harmony and I’m not saying I live in harmony but I know some people who do they have this sense of proportion.
So, there is the place for food but they are not crazy about it.
We want the children to be healthy so they shall eat healthy food.
But you know when you don’t respect yourself and don’t mean good for yourself you will never understand why do you need this healthy food.
It’s about the relationships you have. It’s about the family you create friendships.
If you mean good for yourself and for the others. If you are an openhearted then you eat the food that actually nourishes your and is good for you. And you are aware of all the aspects because you are aware.
So, food is actually a part of mindfulness I would say as much as anything else, like sleeping, loving food just reflects our attitude towards us towards the planet towards other people.
This is the same is about clothes, making clothes, buying new clothes, new shoes.
If we realize how much effort and pain and struggle there is behind these foods or the clothes or other goods that we are getting if we realize how cruel it the businesses, then we would really make different choices probably as consumers.
So, it’s not just white western world. It’s more about economic power.
This why if you want to be fair it’s better to buy locally because then if you know what it comes from you can say that you do honest choices.
Yeah. Otherwise you never know.
So, this why coming back to these communities.
I’m for example in this group on Facebook that it’s only with my neighbour it’s like not neighbours in my building because I know them personally.
But like in the district in the area I think this is the future. There is a lot of exchange. There is a lot of no money business.
We have the currency. Avocados or wine aren’t the currency, something that we all want.
More like a barter. But there is also the currency.
This is something that it’s so informal.
There is no bureaucracy.
I just lend you my bike because you need, it and I trust you, and you will give it back after two days, and I trust with that.
And this is normal behaviour and It’s nothing new. Like people have lived like this forever probably.
Because we depend on each other.
But what I’m saying is that with the global globalization and then with this problems that it brings with itself, the only solution is to get back to these roots, to something that is real and it’s just close to you and you can touch it. I just believe that the future is sensual. Getting to make stuff with our hands, really.
I believe this is the only rescue.
We will never create a proper paradise probably here. But when I’m creating my events the things that I’m doing with the food, around food, connected with culture and rituals and some traditions and history.
I just see that people want to have something real.
This is really what wakes them up.
It brings real value rather than just fun or entertainment. What I believe and what I’m doing is to get people involved rather than present something. So, they are your words and they can judge it.
If you are a part of something, then you feel responsible for it, because it depends on you. It’s up to you. You are a participator. And this is what I believe also in gastronomy, like, this why I work with the village women with homeless people, with the like really unknown cooks.
What I’m saying is that when you have the famous chef and the creation of course you relate to this person or to the dish you can get very touched very emotional.
But on the other hand, you have this chef who wants to be famous and then you have the customer who also wants to be regarded as of a higher status because they can eat in this place because they have money.
This is about ego.
All of it.
This is not a simple exchange.
It’s more about the status and about the whole spectacle but meaning like “showing off.”
What’s more important, more interesting to explore, is all these worlds of other people who also feed their families, feed other people, but they don’t do it to show off.
We’re all makers and we are all capable of doing things.
I also go to the little villages to listen to old people who still sing the old songs like real folk music.
I’ve been told that in the traditional singing the songs is more most important, so the song goes through the singer. We are only passing it through.
Also, the recipe the traditional whatever, spaghetti carbonara, or Polish broth or Pierogi or whatever; we are just transmitting.
We are the stewards, and this is about not being too humble because you can be a great steward, but you don’t own it and here it is the song doesn’t belong to anybody. It belongs to the community and the singer has the privilege to sing it.
When there is less ego than you just enjoy the process because you are connected, and you are a part of something bigger than you.
And I think that this is what really makes us feel really safe, like beings, that we are connected, because this is what we all want, somewhere inside.
In the food area it’s also for me important to remember that food is about actually about feeding you feed your family.
You feed yourself your feed your community in whatever way you can because you can feed them with water so you can feed them with films you can feed them with food.
Especially in Polish. There is the word in Polish, Poshivina, it is more like ‘giving life’ and it means food. This is very important for me to remember this. I’m just serving. I’m serving something but you respect me for serving this to you. There is no power game in it.
This is how I tried to create the events and… and I have had this experience for several years now that people need it.
I don’t believe in the fixed national, nationality like in the way that my identity is solid, because I’m the traveller and everybody’s a traveller.
If my life is a journey, then I’m changing. I’m just an inhabitant of the earth, basically, at the moment.
Anything is sort of solid like a monument it’s never real. And if something is real nobody will take away it from you. It’s impossible.
We are flowing with whatever is happening through the history. And please remember that kitchen is something that never stops. It’s always changing.
If we say about traditional cuisine to what point do we refer?
What year? What period? It’s like telling fairy tale.
It’s constantly changing because people bring products because we are omnivores, so we eat everything.
It’s constantly changing.
There is no other thing that changes so fast as cuisine, as the food to world.
I’d rather say “Kitchen in Poland” than Polish cuisine.
People are scared and they need to hang on to something, because they don’t want to accept the fact that it’s all about insecurity.
This is also about the ego.
Nature will win anyway.
Nature doesn’t need us. It’s not like that we aren’t an important factor for an age. If you watch Chernobyl. Yeah? it’s growing back. So, the nature will deal with this problem when there is not more humans.
Maybe we are coming to a disaster. I don’t know.
But also, only my intention matters.
So if I do the right thing as much as I can do I try hard.
It’s about my heart.
It’s not about anything else.
I’m not optimistic for humanity. It’s about system. It’s about the big money that is behind these things that are happening, that took us to this point where we are.
This is about fossil fuels. This is about global politics.
The system is just making it more dangerous for the planet.
The ego is the centre, or central problem is the ego.
Daniel Christian Wahl
My name is Daniel Wahl. I used to be a marine biologist, got disheartened with reductionist science and lack of including other ways of knowing into the way we do science, and ended up doing a Masters in holistic science at Schumacher college.
At that point, I realized the power of Design in putting this new holistic world view of Gaia theory and Goethian and holistic science interaction, and have been on this path of a sense of exploring how we can redesign the human presence and impact on earth within our lifetime, so we can actually have a future as a species, because we are currently facing the possibility of short term human extinction, if we don’t fundamentally change our ways.
Life is a planetary process. And we are part of that planetary process.
I work a lot now within with the term regenerative design and regenerative development.
Sustainable being something that is really ways of doing things that don’t add any more damage to the system.
And restorative and regenerative, going beyond that, and actually trying to undo the damage that we’ve done over so many decades and centuries of very unsustainable practices.
So, it’s very much about finding solutions that come out of ‘place.’
That attuned to the story that the place itself wants to tell, and the people who have lived with it for generations. But it also is central that it’s about enabling their capacity – of the people who actually live in that place to respond to change as in an inevitable.
My belief is that design has a huge part in making that possible.
Well, the process of the United Nations responding to climate change has been painfully slow.
With the Paris breakthrough, there’s been some form of commitment of staying under two degrees average warming globally. But more recently the IPCC has revised that, and has said that it’s necessary to actually stay below one point five degrees. The reality is we’re not on track at all.
We’re on track to six seven eight degrees warming which basically would mean the unravelling of ecosystems around the globe and the end of civilization as we know it.
The most recent report actually it was November 2008 in gave the world 12 years to fundamentally respond to this crisis. But I think that again the IPCC has a tendency to be conservative, so they don’t get criticized. And 12 years is too long of a window of opportunity to give ourselves.
I think Antonio Guterres the Secretary General of the U.N. in September last year was probably more on the mark by saying that if we don’t respond within the next two or three years, in the way that is unprecedented in terms of international collaboration, then we might have triggered runaway climate change to a point that even if we decide afterwards to do something about it, it would be too late.
We don’t even know half or more than half of the species yet that exist. Particularly the species in the soil microbes. We’re just at the beginning of cataloguing them all.
And really that’s where soil fertility starts, and with it the foundations for higher lifeforms.
It’s really understanding that every single species does matter and has a role to play in creating this collaborative symbiotic system that is basically life as a planetary process.
And we’re part of it, and we’re completely dependent on it.
I strongly believe in the power of design.
I think ultimately, it’s about design as human intentionality expressed through interactions and relationships. It covers product design but it also covers other more complex issues like monetary systems, transport systems our whole economic system and even the way we do research in the different academic disciplines.
There’s a design decision at the beginning of each discipline. So, basically any act human intention has a design element in it.
In that sense, the most powerful design intervention is the meta design intervention of changing people’s world views and value systems, and the stories we tell about each other and in our relationship to nature. When you shift that then our perceived and our real needs shift.
And with that our intention shifts in everything down stream changes.
I think design is powerful and designers very often oversell it, and most design schools still haven’t actually woken up to how critical design and deep ecological design thinking could be to the survival of our species.
There are a lot of companies out there who are supplying things we don’t really need or they’re supplying them in a way that is based on programmed obsolescence and turnover of products.
And I don’t think that that kind of business practice has a future.
I think we need to create much more durable products that much more easily repairable at a local level.
But we also need to create products that are to some extent, the components are more recyclable. But really if you go deeper, you realize that most of the materials we make things out of, we’re going to run out of sooner or later.
So, all that thinking around Circular Economy and two loops in the Circular Economy diagram with a cradle to cradle diagram, the industrial metabolism and the biological metabolism, they’re really just concepts.
Ultimately, we’re going to have to shrink the industrial metabolism because most of the materials in that cycle we won’t be able to recycle forever.
So, one of the big oversells around that is this concept of upcycling. It doesn’t actually work to up cycle things indefinitely, unless you have a free source of energy and there is no such thing.
We’re really needing to fundamentally shift our material culture towards more bio-materials that are regenerative grown, in the region, for the region, and based on the resources that that particular ecosystem has to offer.
It has to be done in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the rest of the ecosystem. So, the contrary, it has to be done in a way that it regenerates the ecosystem.
Basically, these companies are beholden to their shareholders. They operate within a system that is fundamentally exploitative and degenerative. Then that system is our current economic system.
The way that we’ve designed money and the way money is created and the way that we have differential interests on deposit and loans and therefore create an economic playing field that is based on a zero-sum thinking, so basically on winners and losers. And while we have a system like that, and we have that necessity that a national economy needs to grow at a minimum at 3 percent per annum otherwise it collapses,
There are a lot of top-level sustainability minded CEOs that really do care, and yet they are stuck in a system where to some extent, most of what they do is moving deck chairs on the Titanic.
Ultimately, they really need to consider that maybe the assumption that these companies, just because they’ve been around for 100 years, have to be around for another hundred years, might be an erroneous assumption.
Maybe some of these companies actually have to program for their own… or design for their own death in ways that they can then re-emerge in like a phoenix from the ashes, as knowledge networks that help more regional production and regional consumption [00:09:39] With the innovation and development that they’ve been very good at.
That’s at the CEO level.
But for a lot of people who are working in these companies, who are beginning to see that their children are not going to school on Fridays because they’re claiming they’re right for a Liveable Future. Or they see London being disrupted by the Extinction Rebellion and more and more people getting more and more verbal about the fact that it’s five past 12.
We don’t even have a guarantee that we are still going to be able to make it if we do things fundamentally different now.
Most people today are still somewhat stuck in beginning to realize how profound the changes are that we are now called to do individually, as communities, as nations, and as one human family. And at the same time making sure our kids are in school, and that we can pay their bills, so the food’s on the table.
But we are facing transformative change in a way that these incremental innovations, and these incremental changes, just aren’t going to make it in time. So, hold onto your hat.
We have to relearn how to collaborate.
Moving from competitive advantage to collaborative advantage. And realizing that we’re all in this together. Living Spaceship Earth is in danger of collapsing on us.
We’re living in a dream-nightmare, that that tells the story that was somehow separate from nature that culture and nature are not one.
I’m increasingly thinking that working by regionally is the scale at which we can make the biggest difference.
Bio- regionalism has been around since the late 1960s, and this whole concept of re habitation re inhabiting our bio regions, and reconnecting to the biological cycles, the ecological cycles of those regions,
Increasingly also the conversation about what would sustainable cities look like– Understand that it is a reconnection of the city back to its region. So, I could definitely see that there could be models developed in Sweden.
It’s the same with a lot of regions that people have strong allegiance to their particular region.
And so, I think that’s a great starting point because one of the core things about regenerative development and creating regenerative cultures is that they are born out of the uniqueness, the bio cultural uniqueness of place.
They are sensitive to both the ecological and biological uniqueness of the ecosystems they inhabit, but they also are sensitive to the historical cultural dimension, of how people have lived in relationship with nature, and with the elements and with climate, and with the patterns of that particular place, and I think it makes …makes a lot of sense to rekindle those regional identities, but to not do so in a sort of parochial “Let’s go back and pull up the draw bridges, and create lifeboats in a turbulent world” But as understanding that that is the scale of action for a globally collaborative effort to heal the planet, that we have raped and pillaged, basically, and in doing so possibly also heal ourselves, heal our relationship to each other and heal the relationship between humanity and nature.
I know that in Costa Rica there’s a movement to create a bio-regional regenerative development case study in one part of the country. And actually the whole country is looking at adopting regenerative development as.. as their main development strategy.
Things are shifting. —————————————–
Luckily, I also see that there’s a confluence of movements in all walks of life like people trying to transform business from within.
In recent years the Capital Institute started initiatives to work with people in regions to create these “regen” economy hubs at the bio regional scale.
This movement is growing and the different players unnecessarily fully aware of themselves.
I’m also thinking of the Planetary Health Alliance with network of universities and research institutions around the world doing the research and looking into the connections between planetary health ecosystems, Health Population, Health and individual health.
We need to really understand the intrinsic value of our life and planetary health to the whole community of life.
And then there’s organizations like Common land in the Netherlands who’ve developed functional strategies to do large scale ecosystems restoration, working with local farmers, and local landowners, in specific areas around the world, and transforming entire regions that are between 500,000 and a million hectares.
The momentum is building.
I think the next two years are critical. I’m still hopeful.
We are actually going to see this transformative change to become a global emergency response.
It’s only now that we’re slowly beginning to link up the people who have pioneered works in sustainable cities and sustainable architecture and in more bio-materials construction methodologies and so forth with new and pioneering in buy materials and product design, with all the wonderful work that is in kind of Earth Care and earth healing, eco-therapy, from permaculture to agroforestry to analogue forestry and all these other techniques that have been around for a while and have been improved over years and years of experimenting.
We also have lots of case studies to point out that we can if we choose to have a positive impact on the environment that we inhabit. There are plenty of places around the world where large scale regenerative agricultural projects have shown impressive ways; the before and after that is possible in 15, 20 years.
I am thinking of the Lös plateau example that John Low (?) was now founded the ecosystems respiration camp Foundation reported on in the early 2000s. In China, an area of hundreds of square kilometres was being transformed from arid eroding semi desert, to lush terraces that are bio productive with the springs coming back and the tree cover being permanent again, and basically increasing the carbon content in the soil, drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, improving the bio productivity of the area, improving the hydrology of the area, improving the amount of food that it generated and so on.
These things are possible, and there are examples all over the world.
The way that life creates conditions conducive to life is by continuously experimenting with novelty, and so things keep changing. Our planet sits within larger systems as well, that also affect how the conditions on our planet change.
There is no destination sustainability. There is no destination regenerative culture. It is a continuous community-based process of learning of how to adapt and how to respond creatively to change.
[00:20:13] To do so in ways that we enable people to discover their own essence, their unique contribution to making the system more vibrant and more vital and more valuable. But in all levels of value. not just in economics to economic terms.
We all have to walk that path. That is what life is all about. To be adaptive, resilient and regenerative — respond to change.
I’m Helena Norberg Hodge and I’m the director of Local Futures, an international charity. For the last almost 40 years I’ve been promoting what I call ‘decentralization’ or ‘localization’. And that’s because I had the experience of working in cultures that had not been affected by the global market. Cultures like Bhutan and Ladakh, and later on a lot of experience with places like Laos and many parts of the world.
In the mid 70s, Ladakh or Little Tibet, it was a part of the world that had not been colonized nor developed in the modern era. And there I found people who were still providing for all their basic needs from their own resources producing a range of things, some vegetables, grain, they kept animals there had their own architectural tradition of local materials. They still wove their own clothes from their own wool. And I started at first working on a dictionary, and travelled, actually walked through the whole region, it’s about the size of Austria. But in this high-altitude desert there were small villages, that survived by irrigating the desert from glacial melt.
As I got to know the people, I found that they were the most relaxed, the most joyous, the most vibrant people I had ever met.
I also saw that the opening up to the area to outside development was beginning to bring rapid change.
So, I ended up starting projects to demonstrate an alternative to conventional development, which among other things included demonstrating renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.
I also had my eyes open to the craziness in the global market.
So, I literally saw in a very short period after the area was opened up have having been sealed off for a long time. But that had travelled for more than a week over the high Himalayan mountains coming in and being sold for half the price of butter that came from the farm next door.
So, this opened my eyes to then doing studies around the world as I was invited to speak or to start projects similar to the one in Ladakh. So that included Bhutan. I was in parts of Africa, invited to Mongolia, to Burma Myanmar, to Laos and everywhere I went. I would keep my eyes open for this. What was happening with the global market and what it was doing to the local production and local producers.
And I found the same pattern; in Mongolia where they had 20 million milk producing animals, in Ulan Bator, most of the butter came from Germany.
In Kenya, I found butter from Holland crossing half the price of local butter and as I returned to Europe. I found the same thing.
I became a passionate advocate of the need to strengthen local economies worldwide.
Small producers; farmers, fishermen, forest workers that were producing a range of things from diverse, adapted species of animals, and plants were being replaced by bigger and bigger monocultures. And they were being pushed off the land into bigger and bigger cities and in those cities, there were fewer and fewer jobs.
Traditionally in these cultures there had been no such thing as unemployment.
As people were driven off the land into larger and larger cities, all of them created through huge investments in fossil fuel-based infrastructure, there was the beginnings of tensions between people who had lived side by side in more local economies, based on local resources where they were interdependent.
Now suddenly they were dependent on anonymous institutions lost bureaucracies.
And there was this dreadful artificial scarcity of livelihoods of jobs.
After only about a decade of opening up the local market the local economy to outside development these pressures led to violent conflict– to bloodshed. People had lived together side by side for generations.
Most people have never experienced intact local economies.
We have a historical development where colonialism and slavery already destroyed more diversified self-reliant local economies. So, once you have destroyed the fabric of interdependence local interdependence fabric or more diversified production, based on biodiversity, then it’s very hard to see a clear path towards localization.
Most people are not looking at the global system.
This is not about good guys and bad guys. At some level we all know that we depend on the living world, we all know that the real economy is the earth. But there is very little clarity I think about the way that we have lost sight of that.
Politically left and right in this regard is completely meaningless.
Finding a way back to a genuinely sustainable way, will require recognizing first of all that, that food is the most important production product that we have. It’s the only thing that every person needs every day. The only thing.
To allow a system where governments are continuing to subsidize greater and greater distance between each individual and the source of their food. That that inefficiency is responsible by far for the ecocide that we’re witnessing.
We have today a system that has allowed this to go so far, that countries routinely import and export the same product.
The US exports about a billion tonnes of beef and turns around and imports about a billion tonnes of beef …. The UK exports as much butter and milk as it imports. Right now, the UK is exporting 20 tonnes of bottled water to Australia. Australia is exporting 20 tonnes of water to the UK.
On top of that in this global food system we now have big business, being basically condemned to roam the world for the cheapest labour and that means that they will fly fish from Norway to be de-boned in China and it’s flown back again.
Apples were flown from England to South Africa to be washed and flown back again. This is going on, on a massive and increasing scale, while we talk about climate change.
At the same time the emissions from those planes and giant container ship that are shipping things back and forth. Those emissions are not even calculated.
This is not about some…one evil corporation or that every CEO is evil or that every government is completely self-interested.
This is about blindness to the workings of a global system that we are simply not looking at. And it requires effort.
We need to look at the trends from a global point of view but look at them on the ground.
Local governments are responding more to the needs of people and the needs of the natural world.
Both people and nature are diverse. This is a fundamental principle of life. A fact.
And we change from moment to moment.
This is true of every plant of every animal and everything that lives.
We must change the economy so that we do not destroy that uniqueness and that life.
What is wonderful is that from the grassroots and very often through just individual initiatives, people have had enough experience, there are a whole proliferation of positive initiatives that when you analyse them from a structural point of view, you see they are about localization. They’re about reconnecting production and consumption and they’re about adapting and respecting the limits and the needs of the living world.
When we made changes to the food economy, we’re making very fundamental very important changes.
People care most people care in every position. We want to do the right thing.
Even in some of the newly emerging hubs for localization, towns like Portland, Oregon, or ‘here I am now’ in Byron Bay Australia. People are moving there because there is more human scale community interaction. People are known more for who they are what they do what they think their values.
So those are far more attractive places to live.
The wonderful thing about localizing is that there is a structural relationship between shorter distances between the market and the farm so that the local market, the market closer to the farm, not only accepts diversity but demands diversity.
It can’t use 20 tons of straight carrots. It becomes economically interesting for the smaller farmer, or even for a bigger one that decides to localize, in order to survive economically, to start diversifying.
So I know of examples of farmers in America that were you know had been pressured to grow monocultures of tobacco almost all in or near bankruptcy, barely able to survive, who then would just convert a few acres of their land to a diverse range of vegetables to sell in the local market, and were then able to start getting back on their feet again.
If we look globally, we can see there is such an urgent need to restore diversified food sovereignty.
Allow people and farmers to produce for themselves first and then keep some of their land or some of the effort for export whether to tourists or to another market.
Trade has always been there. So, this is not about ending trade.
When we start really exposing what’s going on and we understand our absolute need to reduce energy consumption wherever possible but more importantly, all laws to restore biodiversity on the land then a very different picture emerges.
We need to look at how taxes subsidies and regulations are used to favour monopolies. No self-respecting capitalists would actually believe in subsidizing monopolies but that’s what’s going on.
You do feel that there is a shift going on.
There is waking up it’s almost like an intuitive reawakening to what’s in our DNA.
You know we evolved more connected to one another and to the living world. And you just see people coming out of the cities longing for that reconnection to the earth and to community.
Community building combined with a deep spiritual reconnection to nature is an amazing therapy.
So, if we just open our eyes, we would see a very, very, clear path to healing, at the deep psychological personal spiritual level and healing the earth.
It’s amazing how many people are actually wanting to live a life of deeper connection and caring.
There are many ways that people are beginning to come together.
One of them of course is local markets.
There are also local business alliances.
There is local financing, where various forms, where people when they understand about localization start finding ways of creating for instance a revolving fund in their neighbourhood or with their local group that may be starting a food co-op that may be starting a garden at their children’s school.
There are new singing groups.
One of things that held us together as communities in almost all traditional cultures was that we sang and dance and made music together.
Only with the industrialization and commercialization of our lives, that we become a spectator culture.
This localization actually starts to help us regain many of the skills that we all have. And many of the strengths we have which have, we don’t experience when we lead our anonymous consumer lifestyles.
The most important thing we can do as individuals is to seek out like-minded people near where we live, cook a meal together and once we start opening our eyes to it we already feel so much better.
We already have greater faith in humanity. We realize the problem is not humanity. The problem is the in human scale of an economic system that we simply have not been looking at.
This is about how the global population can start providing for its needs and enriching its local economy. I want to see a growth. I want to see growth in healthy plants healthy animals. I want to see a growth in the number of jobs. I want to see a growth in the number of businesses.
Through the mega mergers, it looks like we’re just going to have one pharmaceutical company providing for the whole world. One seed company one water company.
No, we need to shift it so we have a genuine growth of proliferation into a number that is appropriate and that are all that’s the goal of localization; not to end trade but to restore democracy and to restore the responsibility of business to respond to ecological and cultural realities.
Thank you for listening to second episode of Nordic By Nature, ON SURVIVAL.
The Polish folk music you heard is from two different singing groups. The first group is from Gołvunecki who are making pierogi.
The Second Singing Ensemble you heard is from Dobrowoda. They have been singing together since 1968. The group have received the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Award.
Monika told me their names: (names listed)
Thank you also to Daniel Wahl.
You can find Daniel Wahl on Twitter, @DrDCWahl
And on Facebook at Regenerative Cultures and at Ecological Consciousness.
Daniel’s book Designing Regenerative Cultures is published by Triarchypress.net.
Daniel also has a blog on Medium at Design for Sustainability.
And finally thanks to Helena Norberg Hodge.
Helena is the founder of the International Alliance for Localization and the not for profit Local Futures. Please see local futures dot org for tips on how to get started making changes in your local area.
If you are interested in mindfulness and resilient thinking please read about Ajat Rastogi and his village homestay retreats on found nature dot org. The retreats are based in a village called Majkhali in Uttarakhand India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. You can follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Natureon Facebook and follow Ajay on Instagram at Contemplation of Nature.
Nordic by Nature is an Imaginary Life dot net production created with the support of the Nordic ministries. Please help us by sharing a link to this podcast with the hashtag #tracesofnorth. And please follow us on Instagram at Nordic by Nature Podcast.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast so please email me. Tanya on Nordic by nature at imaginarylife.net
Nordic by Nature is a new type of mindful and spacious sound-crafted audio podcast inspired by Arne Ness, the Norwegian philosopher who coined the term Deep Ecology.
In ten episodes, and with a global perspective, Nordic By Nature explores human, social and personal resiliency and adaptability that is needed for these challenging times.
The podcast is sent from Sweden and the foothills of the Himalayas by two colleagues who met in 2017; Tanya Kim Grassley and Ajay Rastogi. The podcast is intended to be listened to like an extended exercise in mindfulness; the soundscape has been designed by sound artist Diego Losa.
In the first episode On Activism, we have 3 strong voices who represent many thousands more at the forefront of change.
First you hear the words of Satish Kumar. To people in the ecology movement, Satish Kumar needs little introduction. He has been a world leading activist for over 50 years. In his early 20s, inspired by Gandhi and British peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish embarked on an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage together with E.P. Menon.
They walked, without any money, from India to America, via Moscow, London and Paris, to deliver a humble packet of ‘peace tea’ to the then leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers. Satish sends a message to all activists out there! “You are doing something great,” he tells us. All important social change was driven by protest.
After Satish, we meet Marijn van de Geer, a Dutch national, living in London, and active member of the growing, grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, that staged a 10-day demonstration across London, in April 2019, preceding the UK parliament declaring a climate emergency. Marijn takes us by the hand through the Rebellion, why it is so necessary, and the experience of 10 days non-violent protest.
We then will hear Siti Kasim, celebrity lawyer and human rights activist who is passionate about the rights of the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula, the Orang Asli.
Hashtags to copy: tracesofnorth, Deep ecology, Arne Naess, Tracesofnorth, ecology, conservation, resilience, UNSDG, The Nordics, decolonisation, transformation, bioregionaldevelopment, peace dialogue, sustainability, climate crisis, biodiversity, global challenges, society and culture, monikakucia, danielwahl, helenanorberg-hodge, satishKumar, extinctionrebellion, climateuprising, sitikasim, ajayrastogi, tanyakimgrassley, Sweden, swedishstyle,
In the second episode On Survival, we have 3 strong voices who understand the need for radical, system change. First you hear the words of Monica Kucia, culinary curator in Warsaw, who talks about how to take the ego out of food. Then you will hear Design Leader Daniel Wahl, author of Regnerative Cultures who speaks about bioregional development. Finally, we hear Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, and founder of the NGO Local Futures. Hashtags to copy/paste: arnenaess, deepecology, tracesofnorth, monikakucia, danielwahl, danielchristianwahl, rejuvenativecultures, helenanorberg-hodge, ajayrastogi
Episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE
Embeddable player for websites and blogs: <iframe src=’https://share.transistor.fm/e/39486f1f’ width=’100%’ height=’180′ frameborder=’0′ scrolling=’no’ seamless=’true’ style=’width:100%; height:180px;’></iframe>
Simple landing page and text to share on social media: https://share.transistor.fm/s/fac9e81d In this episode ON INNER RESILIENCE, we hear four voices share how they maintain inner equilibrium. Firstly, we learn about nature-centred mindfulness practice from Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India. Then you will hear Egyptian conservationist Noor A Noor, who describes his own personal path into mindfulness – through his experiences of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising. Then Judith Schleicher explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago. Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.
Ajay Rastogi, Founder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.
Noor A Noor, Conservationist, Cambridge University
Judith Schleicher, PhD Fellow at Cambridge University
Nordic by Nature is an Imaginary Life production, created with the support of the Nordic Ministries (Norden.org) and in partnership with The Foundation of the Contemplation of Nature. Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth, and follow us on Instagram Many thanks to Satish Kumar and Elaine Green for their ongoing support and encouragement. Satish is also the editor of Resurgence magazine, and the guiding spirit behind the internationally-respected Schumacher College in the UK. Many thanks to Marijn van de Geer, founder of the consultancy Resolution: Possible, Thanks to Extinction Rebellion members Emma Wallace and Sophie Jenna who also shared their Rebellion sound recordings with us. Please read more about the movements demands for transparency and climate justice on their website. Thank you to Siti Kasim, lawyer, activist and writer of the column Siti Thots on the Star Online. The flute music is a nose flute played by an indigenous Orang Asli man from the Temiar tribe in Kelantan. All the sounds have been arranged by Diego Losa.
You can follow Ajay’s project at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature and connect on Facebook and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram. Press contact: email@example.com Become our patron with even a small donation via Patreon!
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.
Podcast core team: Tanya Kim Grassley, Creator & Host The podcast is an Imaginary Life AB production. Tanya’s Imaginary Life is a network of creative professionals crossing research, strategy and design. Imaginary Life supports forward-looking organisations to facilitating co-creative processes to redefine their vision, values, design philosophy, brand strategy and shape better communications methods suited to transformation and change. www.imaginarylife.net
Ajay Rastogi, Co-host Ajay Rastogi is the cofounder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature where he runs courses in Resilient Leadership. Ajay won the Global Maverick Teacher award for this work in 2016. Ajay has has developed the nature-focussed mindfulness method for opening dialogue called the Contemplation of Nature. www.foundnature.org
Diego Losa, Sound Designer Each podcast begins with a 5-minute meditative spoken word audio journey. We then hear the voices of our guests, accompanied with sound samples and music arrangements that give space for reflection and open up an emotional connection with the speaker. Born in Buenos Aires, Diego Losa is a master of ’concrete music, sound engineering and contemporary digital tools. He is also professor at the EICAR (International Film school of Paris) at the Regional Conservatory of St Etienne and the Sorbonne University (France) and he composes pieces for film, dance, contemporary performance, television and radio. http://diegolosa.blogspot.com
Here is an article that first appeared in The Forumist in December, 2014.
At home, in exile. Changing Places with Ninos Dankha, Prince of Assyria.
It’s easy to compare Ninos Dankha’s sultry tones to the searching expression of Nick Drake, or the pared-back honesty of Tim Buckley. It’s certainly in that Hall of Fame that he belongs. His cathartic approach to music conjures unmentionable longing: all the joy and sadness of the world. His voice has a natural, emotional intensity and restraint that can’t be feigned. The rhythm is definite, but slightly reticent and offbeat. The melodies are original, yet hauntingly familiar. Changing Places is an album that you will revisit, with renewed meaning, time and time again.
“I wanted to say ‘I am the Prince of Nothing, I’m not from anywhere.”
NINOS DANKHA PRINCE OF ASSYRIA
Photo: Truls Andersen
Q: The name, Prince of Assyria, was it intended as a provocation?
A: At the time, I think it was. But you know, the name – it was in 2007. It was more tongue-in-cheek and less loaded somehow. I just wanted to say ‘I am the Prince of Nothing’, because Assyria doesn’t exist. I wanted to say I’m not from anywhere. I’m brought up here in Sweden, and have been here since I was one year old, but I’m always asked where I am from. For me to say I’m Swedish would have been the real provocation.
Q: And now more than ever, that’s a provocation?
A: Yes, I think it still is. Europe is freaking out again. Blaming a whole range of complex issues on immigration. It’s the easy answer that sounds logical and believable, but it’s dangerous to opt for easy answers in challenging times. We need more critical thinking. More solutions. At least now there is a public debate. When there is no dialogue opinions go unchecked and never get challenged.
Gates of Ishtar at the Pergamon museum, Berlin
Photo: by Ninos Dankha
Q: So what is the solution?
A: That’s the discussion we should be having, especially in the media. I hope it’s time for a more intelligent discussion on what the solutions really could be. Most of all, I hope that the new generation can find the confidence within themselves to design these solutions. The issues today are diverse: restrained resources, failing economies based on an outdated model. We’ve turned ourselves into consumers heavily reliant on cheaply produced, throwaway goods. It isn’t sustainable. This is happening and neither Europe nor Sweden can blame it on the ‘outside.’
Q: In a way, Sweden needs to believe the story about itself that the rest of the world believes. Are you also still defining your place in the world?
A: Yes, in more ways than one. I used to dance. Making music was a natural progression. It’s just about creating something, letting whatever it is inside you flow through you – even if it is blocking you. If you focus on just the blockage, or the problems, you lose your focus and can’t be creative anymore. Being creative is the way out for all of us. The difference is, in dance there can be total silence while the movement continues. This is hard to do with music. I’m still learning how to not overexpress – to be more confident and transparent in silence and slowness. It’s a thin line.
Ninos Dankha was a dancer
“In dance there can be total silence while the movement continues. This is hard to do with music.”
Q: What music are you listening to now?
A: So much Ryuichi Sakamoto today, it’s the weather! I also listen to folk music like Karen Dalton. I had 16 Horsepower on just now.
“I think I am letting go of the commercial make-up. Changing Placesis self-produced, but besides that there isn’t too much post-production either.”
Q: Your music has been described as ‘Swedish Melancholy’. Is there such a thing?
A: Yes, I suppose so. I think I’m trying to tap into some sort of universal mix of joy and sadness. That’s melancholy for me. When I think about Swedish melancholy I think about gentle, melodic voices. A shift from major to minor. In Egypt, they sing their heart outs with so much sadness! In Mexico, they celebrate death with joy – but it’s all the same feeling in those blue notes, wherever you go. It’s just a matter of rhythm or ‘touch’ that defines the cultural aspect, and even the cultural differences are not confined by national boundaries. Very little is.
Q: It’s more of a changing landscape. So it’s apt that Changing Places is the last Prince of Assyria album?
A: Yes. The first album Missing Note was well received, and I’m really grateful for that. There have been a lot of great people involved in Prince of Assyria. But now I have to find out what’s next. I think I’m letting go of the commercial make-up. I’m trying to learn how to have far less production. Changing Places is self-produced, but besides that there isn’t too much post-production either.
Photo: Ninos Dankha
Q: Yes, it feels closer. Your version of Song to the Siren in particular: You can feel the air. What are you working on now?
A: Right now, I’m writing lyrics for the third album. It will be called Prince of Assyria, by Ninos Dankha. It’s a transition. After that I can finally leave the Prince of Assyria project and see what I can do. Mentioning Assyria makes people scared and it scares me too. If I let go of that identity what am I?
Q: Maybe it’s enough to start being Ninos Dankha and see what happens?
A: Yes. That’s more than enough for anyone! There’s no need to go on justifying my existence. From now on it’s just about the music.
Imaginary Life recently was invited up to the Artic circle by artist Laila Kolostyak to help organise a seminar and workshop for over 20 selected snow and ice professionals from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. The seminar was funded by Kulturkontakt Nord and the Norwegian Barents Secretariat and aimed to explore how Snow and Ice professionals can raise the profile of their work, as well as collaborate and share knowledge across borders on how to drive successful projects of all scales; from installations in nature parks, to interior and architectural design, to urban planning and urban reclamation and festival planning.
Keynote speakers included leading professionals such as Timo Jokela from the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, known decades of spectacular land art, Jens Toms Ivarsson, Design Director at the world-famous ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden and Ole Morten Rokvam, an artist and craftsman who has curated leading events with snow and ice in Norway for over a decade. In addition, the artists from Kirovsk and Murmansk were exceptionally inspiring, sharing their festival and community work and bringing a lot of love and live music.
We spoke with Jens Thoms Ivarsson:
We were discussing the ‘eternal ephemerality’ or ice. Is that something Design can learn from?
Absolutely. Imagine: the earth was created at some point, some billions of years ago. The water we are working with could have come from a comet- its ancient and essential stuff. Two different materials met and collided, basically stone and water. They became a frozen moment. Hot lava froze into stone, and water turned into ice. It’s this moment of change that artists and designers often explore in the materials and contexts they work with. Moments of change. Tipping points. How materials age next together. How they behave. It’s fundamental stuff, but ice also teaches us about the nature of continuous change. The seasons, nature’s needs, human needs in winter climates, and of course, climate change. These are new frontiers for design in general. We always think about the negative aspects of snow and ice, how to get rid of it, how to avoid it. We’ve hardly scratched the surface of how to use it as a material.
How long is something ephemeral?
It’s a good question. It all depends on the point of view, the objectives of a project. We follow the melting process of the ICEHOTEL too- it is so beautiful. We spend so long making details, crafting interiors and design elements –always knowing it will melt and return to the river again. And during the process, the sound changes in the building, the atmosphere is fantastic. It’s not sad- its liberating. The ice hotel doesn’t collapse, it opens up in the centre to reveal the sky and the surroundings of the place where it started. There is so much new knowledge to be gained about snow and ice.
But there is a high risk of making mistakes working with such a volatile material?
Yes – but the volatility also opens possibilities. Designers always ask “How do I avoid mistakes?” Ernst Billgren’s book ‘Vad är Konst 2’ (What is art 2) says that the short answer is to sit very still! As soon as humans do something there are mistakes, but mistakes also lead to discoveries. All our genetic development and success is built on learning from mistakes. When I work in stone or concrete and it is placed in city, there is a lot of pressure as the object will lasts for a lifetime. Working in snow and ice is very freeing in a way. You can be more brave and experimental. Less self conscious and more playful.
How do you work with seasons of water and light at the ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi?
You’d think it all happens in the winter as the focus is on ice art but we are moving to all year round. In the summer there is rafting, fishing and other nature activities and the phenomenon of the sun never setting at night- that is a very special experience to have. Also we are preparing for the water to freeze long before it does. It’s the pivotal moment for us, as we invite artists from all over the world. And those artists are not all traditional ice sculptors. We work with people from all background to explore what they can create with ice as a material.
We can also funnel water from the river, and blow it through snow canons to create a material we call “snice” –manufactured snow. We can throw snow onto moulds. Sometimes we use reinforcement to create very large structures. We are also learning more ever year about how to use ice reinforcement. The old way is to create giant moulds for architectural structures where the walls are built with plywood moulds and filled with snice, much like the process for creating concrete buildings. By exploring ice reinforcement we open new doors to resourceful innovation in architecture.
How many people are involved in constructing the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi every year?
At the ICEHOTEL we have a team of over 50 people who work on the structure alone. Then there is all the finishing work on interior design, lighting and so on. Tools and methods are developing all the time and its important to share this knowledge.
Focus on working together is important – the joy comes when it is finished! One of the hardest jobs is being on roof in minus 35 connecting wires without gloves. It’s the engineers, technicians and ice workers we really have to thank! They make these ideas possible.
What other type of work do you do there?
One example is that we send ice and snice all over world- and send our engineers to make large events possible. For examples we created a catwalk for Chanel at the Grand Palais in Paris. We needed to install a cooling system for the 40 m long 8 m high catwalk. Karl Lagerfeld ordered it. We had to tell him not to wear boots not to get wet. He was great fun to work for. We asked him to lick the ice and he obliged!
One of my favourite projects that you showed at the seminar was the roundabout you made in a lake.
Yes, we cut out a huge disc in the river and added a boat engine. It was a simple intervention to see if the disc would rotate – and it did! It rotated at a perfectly even speed. It worked out better than we anticipated it would. Nature is like that.
An exhibition by Allen Grubesic promises a thought-provoking moment of clarity for people familiar with his work and those new to it. Stripping messaging back to its core essence is the nature of Grubesic’s practice. By focusing his energy on dissecting the very nature of communication and image making, Grubesic engineers works that are both politically relevant and visceral. Many artists aspire to provoke a personal questioning of the times in which we live. Few do manage to do it with such precision.
Grubesic doesn’t waste time or effort on avoiding categorisation. Text and sculptural objects are the main tools he uses to provoke an immediate emotional response in his audience that is certain to be followed by a cascade of connotations and interpretations. Grubesic playfully caricatures himself and his work so that it is visible in a world obsessed with packaging easy answers. Whether the works provoke a smile or a ‘WTF?’ response, the artist knows how to get your attention, and sustain it with poetic refinement.
Conspiracy Theory, 2010.
Conspiracy Theory is a collection of 20 text-based hand screen-printed panels, placed in a random matrix to form a strategic messaging model that can be rearranged to create new hierarchies of ‘unexplained’ acronyms. It is data visualisation and big data gone analogue. The acronyms are iconic, modern-day hieroglyphics. Each familiar set of letters fronts a sinister background conspiracy theory. Your eyes and mind flitter back and forth between ‘CIA’ to ‘NSA’ to ‘HIV’ and back again, subliminally throwing up a plethora of associations. Our understanding of these commonly used acronyms is shaped by their representation in media.
Each ‘conspiracy theory’ is topical. The acronyms have been carefully chosen to balance precariously on the edge of ambiguity, hence the random placement. Each acronym is connected through association with its neighbours in the grid. You may associate the acronym WTF with ‘Wikileaks Task Force’ – but WTF is still the perfectly adequate and appropriate response. Does PDA represent ‘Public Display of Affection’ or ‘Personal Digital Assistant’? Both are equally poignant. The former can get you thrown out of a restaurant and into a prison – if you are gay. The latter is the major driver of a society that allows this happen, whilst giving us some semblance of personal freedom and choice as globally connected citizens. What was once considered ‘conspiracy theory’ is now widely accepted as fact.
The shift in ‘transparency’ is relatively very recent but also ongoing. The speed of media consumption is increasing at an exponential rate along with connectivity. We have reached a tipping point where the easiest way to disarm an idea is to ignore it and let it into the oblivion of history. In a hyper-connected world 3 minutes ago is history. Our personalized #WTF messages are continuously regurgitated into a diminishing ‘public’ realm as shared content. As Grubesic points out with Conspiracy Theory, this is not random, it is considered. A self-perpetuating system of self-imposed censorship is the ultimate Conspiracy Theory.
But it isn’t all gloom and doom. Grubesic’s sculptural works range from the strangely sexual Staring at the sun to the more humorous yet equally engaging Frying pans. Awareness, when coupled with humour, can liberate us from the banal. Grubesic’s work is thought provoking but it’s also a lot of fun. He uses the most efficient means possible to deliver an immediate emotional punch, but he always leaves you enough space to mediate your own relationship to the image you are confronted with.
The energy of the work is carefully weighed and harnessed so that it is an important part of your experience without being dominating. In Frying pans, the commentary shifts. The pans are imported ‘readymades’, but on closer inspection you can see they have been carefully sandblasted. Oversized cartoon-like eggs are manufactured with finesse; the plasticised matt finish is tactile and seductive. The image may be appropriated and amusing, but the production process is complex and considered. As representations of ceaseless and excessive production and consumption Frying pans is both obscene and refined.
Grubesic is obviously at home in the field of production he is participating in. Humour, detachment and critical thinking are all part of his practice. But his work is not cynical or bombastic. Grubesic humbly invites us to stand alongside him as critics and perpetrators of the culture we all share – with large amounts of wit and generosity.
About the artist.
Allen Grubesic (b. 1974) graduated from The Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm in 2003. He uses text, print, photography and sculptural objects to analyse and deconstruct messages that epitomise the contradictory nature of popular culture.
Grubesic has had solo shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, Natalia Goldin Gallery in Stockholm, Alida Ivanov Gallery in Stockholm, Charles Bank Gallery in New York, and most recently at Niclas Belenius Gallery in Stockholm. His work has been exhibited at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, The Modern and National museums of Stockholm as well as Tensta Konsthall, Kiasma in Helsinki, Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt, Lautom Contemporary in Oslo, Laviola Banks Gallery in New York, and Maria Stenfors Gallery in London.
Allen Grubesic is represented by Gallery Niklas Belenius, Stockholm and is currently showing at Oslo Kunstföreningen.